Published in Times of India on 27th September, 2010

Most flyers know that flight delays can lead to harrowing experiences. With many more people taking to traveling by the skies these days, airports tend to resemble fish markets. Spending an extra hour at an airport can thus be a mind-numbing experience.

Multiple airlines, their staff, their equipment, their rigmarole, the frequency of their announcements, and not to forget the hundreds of passengers who jostle around at any given moment; all these factors contribute to the pitiable plight of the frequent flyer.

Announcements are something that we as a nation do not excel in. The squeakiest of voices tend to go on repeating stuff that is superfluous and inane, over public address systems. If one is in the mood for a snooze while waiting for the cheerful news that one’s flight is finally to take off, one can forget it. Most announcers who are entrusted with the task of apologizing for flight delays have clearly never been to a pronunciation class. What is worse is that they tend to scream at their loudest and probably don’t need mikes at all but still use them.

Worse still, if one ends up at an airport in uncertain times i.e. days of fog or of heavy rain, one is never likely to get a correct answer to a simple query about when one’s flight would take off. The airport staff, without exception, looks utterly clueless and probably are just that.

People’s tempers tend to rise with alarming alacrity on such occasions. The ground staff, for no fault of their own, have to face a barrage of verbal volleys fired by impatient passengers. Some passengers cross all limits of propriety at such times and even fisticuffs may result.

On one such occasion, a passenger had to be adjusted on a subsequent flight as his connecting flight had flown off much before he eventually landed to catch it. Harried he rightly was, but that was no excuse for his subsequent behaviour. The man went to a booking counter, wanted some adjustment in his seat and was directed to a neighbouring queue. Having no stomach to go to the end of the line, he thrust his papers at the booking clerk and demanded a window seat, much to the chagrin of others waiting patiently for their turn.

He then picked up a quarrel with the booking clerk and charged him with not having improved things for the ‘last 63 years’. This unprovoked and uncalled for accusation riled a young man at the head of the queue and he sprung to the clerk’s defence.

The result was that all hell broke loose. The intruding complainant got an earful from his fellow passengers and had to beat a hasty retreat. The clerk at the counter looked bemused at this unexpected turn of events for he was used to bearing the brunt of the ire of passengers, day in and day out. He had never expected to be defended in this manner.

Flight delays can also lead to pleasant experiences at times. A young girl found this out to her delight one day. She was rather hassled and bored while awaiting the expected shrill boarding announcement when she noticed a young Bollywood hero seated just metres away. The TV-star-turned-film-actor was trying to hide his face behind a large hat but had let his guard slip for enough time to give the lass a glimpse.

There was no stopping the girl after that. She squealed and jumped and hounded the star for a photograph with her. The entire airport was soon posing for pictures with the shy young actor who was perhaps still too new to have acquired airs.

One thing is for sure. Those who plan to fly the skies in future better carry with them three additional items- anti-stress medicines, ear plugs and an autograph book.